Friday Fictioneers – Lost Love

I’m sorry to have posted and read so little recently – I am making a determined effort to finish the first draft of my novel (which was originally inspired by a Friday Fictioneers prompt). You probably won’t see much of me for another month or so, but I couldn’t resist Sandra’s evocative picture today!

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz (the blue frog) on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

FF - Lost Love 190424

PHOTO PROMPT © Sandra Crook

Lost Love

Here, between the indigo shades of night and the pearl-bright morning, between the sky and the falling tide, here she sat, where once she had sat with him, had kissed him, had fallen in love. She sat and listened to the hiss of the waves as they greedily wrestled shingle from the land, she listened to the whisper of a calving glacier, when a million tons of Greenland ice had shattered the sea, she listened to the echo of Krakatoa, whose eruption had rung the earth like a gong.

Her spaniel nuzzled her fingertips, and she sighed.

War is terrible.

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A big ask – long version

This Saturday’s prompt for What Pegman Saw was Hanoi, Vietnam. The challenge was to write a story about the location of 150 words or fewer.

I wrote a story and squeezed it into the word limit, but it seemed to me to have such potential that I simply had to write a longer version – and here it is! I hope you enjoy it.

A big ask - long 180910

A big ask – long version

“Now Vietnam’s normalising, we need a man there, open an office, build contacts. You speak the lingo, don’t you, Matt?”

Usually Matt could ignore the pain in his back that had throbbed persistently for twenty-five years, but it suddenly stabbed at the mention of Vietnam.

“You remember how I learned the language?”

“Oh, that.” With a wave of his hand the CEO dismissed the nine months of captivity, beatings and torture Matt had suffered.

“It’s a Regional Director post, Matt. You’ll be responsible for all our south-east Asia business. It’s a good job. Secure, too.” He dropped a thick file on the desk in front of Matt. “That’s the provisional analysis of the potential. Read it. Get an idea of the scale of your opportunity.”

‘Vietnam is different now,’ Matt told himself. ’Besides, it sounds like this job or no job.’  It wasn’t many weeks before he was settling into Hanoi.

And, as his months in the country passed, he found himself liking the Vietnamese – one of them in particular. Thirty years old, not beautiful but with a quirk to her lips when she smiled that he found irresistible, Nguyen Thi won Matt’s heart. They dated, danced, dined – and fell in love.

“Come see my Pa,” urged Thi.

“Sure,” said Matt. “I’d like that.”

“Next Saturday?”

“That’ll be fine. I’ll look forward to it.” Matt’s back twinged. Until he’d been captured, he’d fought against the Vietnamese of Thi’s father’s generation. He was not proud of some of the things he and his comrades had done. He hoped profoundly that the man wouldn’t recognise him and point him out as a killer.

On Saturday, Thi’s father, Nguyen Anh Dung was nervous. The table was covered with small dishes of food, spicy prawns, savoury meat, crisp vegetables, tangy fruits. He hoped the American would enjoy it. Perhaps at last his daughter would marry. He didn’t like the thought of an American son-in-law, but as he told himself, ‘Thi’s happiness comes first’.

The late afternoon sun lit the buildings, an eclectic mix of colonial and modern, elegant and utilitarian, as Matt and Thi walked hand in hand to visit.

“Here we are,” said Thi.

It was a plain apartment block, neither smart nor scruffy, but clean and in good repair. The couple were silent as they rode the elevator to the eighth floor.

At the door of Anh Dung’s apartment, Thi poised her finger on the bell.

“Ready?” she smiled. Her lips quirked. A surge of love poured through Matt.

“Go for it!”

A few seconds. The sound of shuffling feet. The rattle of a security chain being unfastened. The door opened.

The two men looked at each other.  Their eyes met. They both froze.

Pain surged in Matt’s back. Terror washed icily through his stomach. He fought to retain self-control, not to run. He glanced once, imploringly, at Thi, and then locked eyes once again with Anh Dung.

Anh Dung saw the eyes of a young GI, at first defiant, then screaming, and finally broken, abject. He remembered the contempt he had felt then, and was filled with shame and horror at what he had done, who he had been.

Thi stared from one to the other.

“What is it? What’s the matter?”

She seized her father’s arm and shook him. Gently, Anh Dung pushed her away. He bowed deeply and spoke to Matt.

“I once did you great wrong,” he said. “Nothing I do now can atone for that. Can you forgive the father’s evil for the sake of his daughter?”

He lowered his gaze, fixed it on the ground and remained silent, waiting.

Slowly, one finger at a time, Matt unclenched his fists. Slowly his panic subsided and his breathing slowed. Thi reached out to him, and he grasped her offered hand, drew strength from her.

“It’s been a long time,” he said. “I guess I can try”.

 

Hiroshima – War and Peace

On August 6th 1945, at 8:15 a.m. the world changed for ever. The Enola Gay dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. There were nearly 400,000 people in the city. Nobody knows exactly how many were killed directly; the official estimate is that by the end of 1945 about 140,000 had died as a result of the bomb.

The city was laid waste, flattened. For a radius of 2700 metres scarcely anything remained standing. Men, women and children died in their tens of thousands, many burned alive by the searing heat of the blast, others shredded by glass blown from windows, still others with their internal organs destroyed by the shockwave.

The Peace Park and Museum in Hiroshima are both a memorial to those who died, and a powerful political statement against the possession and use of nuclear weapons.

The devastation of the blast is symbolized by the gutted structure of the Trade and Industry Exhibition Hall, which has been left exactly as it was after the bomb had exploded.

Hiroshima dome 170409

The children who died are commemorated by a sculpture in the Peace Park.

Hiroshima children's sculpture 170409

They are also remembered by a place where visitors, especially children, can leave origami paper cranes. This tradition originates with a little girl named Sadako Sasaki. She suffered from leukaemia as a result of radiation left by the bomb. There was a popular belief that anyone making 1000 paper cranes would have their wish granted and be healed. She tried to make the cranes, but died before she had finished them. Her classmates completed the remainder so that 1000 cranes were buried with her. Since then, people from all over the world have left similar paper cranes in memory of her, and of all the children who died as a result of the bomb.

Cranes fly above the river next to the park.

There is a great bell, which any visitor may toll to affirm their desire for peace and an end to nuclear weapons. The reverberations sound in every corner of the park and maybe in every corner of the world, carried there in the recollections of those who have visited.

There is an eternal flame, which will be kept burning until every nation has forsworn nuclear weapons.

Hiroshima eternal flame 170409

There is a tree, which was half burned away by the blast. Astonishingly, the next year fresh branches sprang from the trunk, and the tree still survives, left there as a symbol of hope.

I have been convinced of the evil of nuclear weapons since my childhood 50 years and more ago. The more I think about the matter, the more strongly I feel that the only solution is to altogether repudiate armed conflict between groups. Anyone who serves in their country’s armed services must obey without question, which means that unscrupulous leaders can unleash war. We know it happens; we have seen it happen in our own lifetime in Iraq.

Please, if you are a man reading this blog, say no to service in the military, and teach your sons and your grandsons to do the same. And if you are a woman, encourage the men in your family to put aside thoughts of military service.

Unless we do this, eventually somebody will use nuclear weapons again, bigger weapons in greater numbers causing incalculably more casualties. And surely we none of us want that.